It’s amazing how far cell phones have come in just the last couple years – and the tech is about to get a lot more innovative. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego are creating tiny, silicon chips that can detect toxins. Scientists hope to eventually embed the sensors in cell phones so they can map chemicals’ locations, alert emergency responders and, most importantly, save lives.
Michael Sailor and his team at UC San Diego along with startup company Rhevision Technology, Inc. recently completed the tech’s first phase of development. Now, they’re working on a prototype that can work with a cell phone.
The tech relies on a totally new type of sensor. The chip is basically a porous, silicon flake. As air passes over the sensor, the device changes colors when it detects specific chemicals. While the chip can only identify a handful of chemicals right now, researchers hope to optimize the technology to eventually discriminate between hundreds of different compounds.
Cell phones aren’t the only venue for the technology, either. The sensor could fit right into firefighters’ masks and turn a different color when it detects carbon monoxide. That alerts firefighters to switch on their oxygen masks. The device could also be useful for miners by sniffing out explosive gases and alerting them when there’s a buildup.